Home Read Classic DVD Review: Various Artists | American Roots Music

Classic DVD Review: Various Artists | American Roots Music

This wide-ranging four-hour PBS docuseries is packed with plenty of vintage footage.


This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


MAIN COURSE: All four hour-long chapters of the recent PBS documentary on the evolution of 20th-century music. Like the title hints, American Roots Music cuts a wide swath — blues and gospel, folk and country, Cajun, Zydeco, Tejano and even Indigenous music all get airtime. (Wisely, they leave jazz to Ken Burns.)

SIDE DISHES: Six full-length clips of artists like country swing legend Bob Wills, folkies Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson, and — coolest of all — gospel guitar goddess Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who delivers a hell-raising Down by the Riverside. Also, the well-packaged set has timelines, episode summaries and plenty of pictures. FINAL VERDICT: Obviously, there’s no way to cover American music in four hours — or even 40. But this set does offer a pretty thorough overview, and some of the rare vintage footage is fabulous. I only wish there were more outtakes.